Gauteng government to block the liquidation of Nelson Mandela’s House in Soweto
The Gauteng government has vowed to stop the liquidation of the Mandela House Museum in Soweto following concerns about huge job losses and the disintegration of history of the tourist site.
The planned government’s intervention was announced by the Gauteng MEC of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation during a debate on the transformation of South Africa’s heritage landscape in the Gauteng provincial legislature today.
On Wednesday, The Star – one of Independent Media’s flagship titles – reported that the Mandela House, which is a major tourist attraction on Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, Soweto, was due to be liquidated and the assets sold off to pay off debtors.
Mandela left the house to the Soweto Heritage Trust, of which he was also a founder.
The trust restored the house in 2008 to preserve its history through fundraising events.
Staffers told Independent Media that they were surprised to learn that it was going to be liquidated and the furniture sold off to pay off debts incurred by the Soweto Heritage Trust.
In the legislature today, MEC Hlophe said her office and that of Gauteng Premier David Makhura were surprised by the purported liquidation.
“We have learnt of the unfortunate plans to liquidate the house of Nobel Peace prize holder and our first democratically elected President Nelson Mandela.
“The liquidation of this asset of history would be a travesty to not just the province but nation.
“Our Department working together with the Premiers office will be meeting the liquidators to intervene on the matter urgently,” Hlophe said.
She said: “Heritage routes are not only culturally, and traditionally embedded in our history, but are also linked to our tourism sector.
“Our Vilakazi Street, Pela Street and Hector Pieterson Museum for instance attract a lot of international and local tourists, bringing in this diverse grouping of individuals to enjoy – not just rich history of the locality, but to also interact with its people and each other through food and dance, fostering social cohesion.”
She maintained that Soweto was considered to be one of South Africa’s top 20 heritage tourist sites.
“Transforming our heritage landscape is significant for boosting our local economies, as heritage sites have become essential sources of revenue for local economies.
“The connection between heritage and economy forms the basis for addressing important social issues, such as infrastructural capital, inadequate access to credit, and dominance of urban players,” said Hlophe.
The MEC also pointed out that transforming the heritage landscape, and reviving our Heritage Routes through the duplication of what we call the “Vilakazi street model”, would ensure that all regions and especially the Sedibeng and West Rand benefit through the tourism economy.
“So our Sharpeville route can similarly to the Vilakazi street in Soweto boast the hospitality sector through local restaurants and BnBs, whilst artists and crafters in the locality can be provided with an avenue to showcase their talent.
“73 000 jobs were created from heritage tourism in the country in 2014, through our planned revival of Heritage Routes in all corridors, Gauteng will contribute quite significantly to this number,” Hlophe said.